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Irish Banks to Test New Blockchain-Based Interbank Payment System

Irish lenders Allied Irish Banks, Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB have teamed up with global consultancy Deloitte to work on a pilot program that will leverage blockchain technology to increase the speed and security for the country’s domestic interbank payments.

The collaborative project carries the name Project GreenPay and will use technology developed by Ulster Bank’s parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

The payments platform being trialed is called Emerald. RBS’s Emerald platform, which was built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, has already been tested in the Dublin-based startup hub Dogpatch Labs, where participating banks have been conducting dummy payments among themselves to test the blockchain-based system for performance, stability and accuracy. The platform is able to acknowledge payments in less than 10 seconds while processing large transaction volumes.

The distributed ledger technology pioneered by Bitcoin allows transactions to be recorded and shared with permissioned members on a distributed ledger, enabling payments to be processed in a more secure and efficient manner.

“[The blockchain is] essentially a software that provides a way of recording transactions in a trustworthy way. It has the potential to disrupt multiple industries for the benefit of customers, and we’re determined to investigate how we can harness this for the financial sector,” said Ulster Bank’s chief administrative officer, Ciarán Coyle.  

“When we saw that RBS had that capability, we decided to use the platform in the Republic. We looked at how we could prove it at an industry level and looked at doing collaboration at an industry level,” he added.

For RBS’s Head of Innovation Engineering Richard Crook, it “made sense” for RBS’s Irish subsidiary, Ulster Bank, to adopt its Emerald payment system for the collaborative industry-wide payment network trial. “We’re delighted to support that and further prove that blockchain [technology] can be used to better serve customers,” Crook added.

David Dalton, consulting partner and financial services industry leader at Deloitte Ireland, stated that the pilot project would leverage the company’s blockchain lab in Dublin, and added: “We believe blockchain adoption will happen more quickly than anticipated and without a proactive and well-adopted strategy, banks and insurers risk being locked out of potential innovations enabled by this technology.”

No specific timeframe has been set for when the new payment system could be implemented in the Irish financial system, and there is no guarantee that it will. However, Project GreenPay is another clear signal that banks across the world are embracing blockchain technology to improve the efficiency and security of their services. It will not be long until the blockchain will become an integral part of the global financial system.

Alex Lielacher

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